The US Congress is considering a significant piece of legislation to punish Moscow for alleged interference in last year’s election.
It would also diminish President Trump’s ability to dismiss sanctions against Russia.
Why are there sanctions against Russia?
After Russia annexed Crimea and backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, in 2014, the Obama administration in tandem with the European Union introduced an array of economic sanctions on Russian individuals and businesses.
Many of the individuals targeted were linked to Russia’s actions in Ukraine or were part of President Vladimir Putin’s elite entourage.
Assets were frozen and restrictions imposed on Russia’s oil industry, as well as its state finance, technology and arms sectors.
In December 2016, Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian compounds in response to what the US intelligence community concluded was a Russian government-backed cyber-attack directed to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Moscow denies the allegation.
What is Congress voting on?
Members of the US Congress want to turn existing sanctions, and some new ones, into law. Both houses have Republican majorities, the same party as the president.
Senators overwhelmingly backed the bill earlier in June, with only two opposing votes, and it now requires a successful vote in the House of Representatives and then the signature of President Trump to become law. The new bill also targets Iran and is expected to include North Korea.
President Trump will either sign it into law or reject it with use of a veto. With enough votes, Congress could use its own veto to counter the president.